Last night, over an extraordinarily good Italian dinner, a buddy of mine explained to my girlfriend and me why ideology doesn't matter, only partisanship. His point was a Kossian one, that the party need not bother itself worrying about conservative Democrats and liberal ones, just whether they're committed to the cause. And at this juncture, that's probably true, the Bush administration's interest in Democratic opinion hovers between "not there" and "are you fucking kidding me". But it presents a pretty large problem: this country, so long as its political parties remain in the state of flat-out warfare they're in, is screwed. Because so long as a single party controls all levers of power, there's no reason for the minority party to negotiate, only to obstruct. Worse, the majority party need never look for counsel, as their inclination is to round up their votes and pass the most ideologically pure legislation they can pen. Caught amidst those dynamics, any issue that Americans care about will languish, doesn't matter which party is in power. Health care? Dead. Social Security privatization? Dead. In this system, it's trivial to obstruct attempts at massive change, and even easier to scare the American people over them. Policy is complex, attacking it is not.
Now Republican strategists are sounding the alarms over massive losses in 2006. Good, I hope they go down in flames. And not just because their leader has horns. Until Democrats regain control over some lever of power, be it the House, the Senate or the Presidency, there'll be no serious legislating done in Washington. Some pet programs might squeeze through, and some under-the-radar bills meant to screw those going bankrupt might slide in, greased by industry cash, but nothing addressing the serious issues in the country will make it. Because until Bush has to negotiate with a solidly Democratic body, he's not going to float anything sane enough to pass. And until Democrats can negotiate from a position of strength, they won't be able to take credit for anything they push through, much less turn out legislation they can proudly tout to constituents back home. So to Republicans demoralized by these reports, buck up. Your best chance of enacting anything approaching a legislative agenda is to have your congressional majorities cleanly ripped away. Until then, gridlock will reign.